How do WOC create a safe space while playing L4D on XboxLive?

By Casi Martinez

            Being a girl online and playing Left 4 Dead is an experience that I have found to be very gendered and ageist. While playing with my sister, we are often found to be incredibly unique, because we are good players, Latina, and girls. I wanted to know how to create a safe space where girls like my sister and I can play xbox together with others and not feel like we don’t belong. For my sister playing with people she actually knows in “real life,” or players whom she has encountered through the game by playing with me, keeps her xbox live space safe. Similarly, by utilizing the features in xbox live such as mute, an action where you can essentially ignore a character who is speaking on mic, and kick, an action where you can remove characters from your team or game, she is able to keep out or ignore the people that make her space uncomfortable. Community’s are made through clans on xbox live. However, my sister who is part of a clan, had an opinion on community that was interesting.

“it doesn’t mean much to be part of the community because whether you’re online often or not, it’s not necessarily affecting the other folks playing, unless they actually like you. And I make my own safe spot by getting comfy, and playing with people I actually know.”

 Skype session 11/10/12 8PM

I often feel very conscious of myself when I enter the online gamespace, because unlike my sister, my “avatar” within the space is already gendered. I am “SeoulQueen”, and because of this, games I enter and lobbies I join already establish me as an outsider. My gender is most often pronounced in the conversations I have with the boys online, who meet me for the first time and have. I am often treated like “the girl.” Flirted with, or found to be something special, because I can actually play well. Or simply because I am a rare diamond in a field of baseballs and basketballs.

Interactions are most obvious when I am listening to the conversations on chat between boys, they call each other names or crude with each other, but when they boys speak with me, they are less aggressive. I have had more apologies from the guys on xbox online, than in person from my boyfriends.

These experiences are few and far between though, because the online experiences from playing Left 4 Dead, are done through conversational interactions, so one needs to own a mic in order to fully participate. This interaction has a class element that allows users of the platform to participate, especially because Left4Dead is meant to be a very engaging, conversation/strategy filled game. Overall, the experiences that both my sister and I have had revolve around a community where we can weed out those whom make us uncomfortable. The community is often what you make it.

Conversation with Bulbasaurus~

[11/10/12 7:45:34 PM] Bulbasaur!: <3

[11/10/12 7:47:07 PM] Cassi: <3

[11/10/12 7:47:09 PM] Cassi: ily

[11/10/12 7:47:11 PM] Cassi: imishyou

[11/10/12 7:47:34 PM] Cassi: hey crystal can you answer some questions for me?

[11/10/12 7:47:55 PM] Bulbasaur!: yes

[11/10/12 7:48:03 PM] Bulbasaur!: as a third party unbaised opinion of course

[11/10/12 7:48:52 PM] Cassi: lol as yourself.

[11/10/12 7:49:13 PM] Cassi: how would you describe XBOX online?

[11/10/12 7:50:08 PM] Bulbasaur!: On a good day, it’s a community of folk that have similar interests and goals. After dark, it’s a cesspool of horrid, troll-like individuals who don’t understand the meaning of team.

[11/10/12 7:50:56 PM] Cassi: can you explain more what a good day is like? what similar interests and goals do they share, who are the folk what type of people make up this community?

[11/10/12 7:52:48 PM] Bulbasaur!: A good day would be being able to play, without words, on any game, and having a team understand the end goal, winning, and helping out, without running off or being a jerk. This is almost strictly Left for Dead, though, since I rarely play any other game without people that I know. Similar interests include the games being played, and these good folk are those with their head in the game, who understand what the real world is like and don’t act like because they’re good at the game, they’re god’s gift to earth.

[11/10/12 7:55:38 PM] Cassi: lolz

[11/10/12 7:56:14 PM] Cassi: who’s a jerk? what are they like?

[11/10/12 7:56:55 PM] Bulbasaur!: People who aren’t team players. People who run off, leave teammates behind, use up valuable resources, talk smack, and generally are unpleasant.

[11/10/12 7:57:05 PM] Cassi: talk smack meaning?

[11/10/12 7:57:57 PM] Bulbasaur!: Talk down to certain characters, generalize based on what they see from who, or just start shouting obscenities left and right.

[11/10/12 7:59:22 PM] Cassi: generalize?

[11/10/12 8:00:20 PM] Cassi: do you think its a safe space for you?

[11/10/12 8:00:23 PM] Bulbasaur!: Louis (commonly mispronounced Lois) is shit, because he’s the black character) or Zoey sucks because she’s a chick.

[11/10/12 8:00:33 PM] Cassi: ah~

[11/10/12 8:01:20 PM] Bulbasaur!: I never put myself in not safe places. I don’t normally feel uncomfortable in places, so I think I’m safe, because I’m not there in person. I’m on my game, behind a headset, barely talking, and in my own little safe spot.

[11/10/12 8:01:24 PM] Bulbasaur!: i want subway rn.

[11/10/12 8:01:33 PM] Cassi: lolz

[11/10/12 8:01:47 PM] Cassi: so you what does being part of the community mean?

[11/10/12 8:02:03 PM] Cassi: and how do you create your own safe spot?

[11/10/12 8:02:48 PM] Bulbasaur!: It doesn’t mean much to be part of the community because whether you’re online often or not, it’s not necessarily affecting the other folks playing, unless they actually like you. And I make my own safe spot by getting comfy, and playing with people I actually know.

[11/10/12 8:04:33 PM] Cassi: actually know?

[11/10/12 8:04:43 PM] Bulbasaur!: Like you. Or the boys.

[11/10/12 8:05:35 PM] Cassi: okay.